Developing & evaluating creative wellbeing programmes
DEVELOPING WELLBEING PRACTICES IN CREATIVE SPACES
In our modern world of overstimulation and high stress-levels museums, galleries, and creative spaces are increasingly being recognised for their potential as
shared sacred places, with an unrivalled power to quiet the mind, stimulate the brain, and feed the soul.
Museums in turn are increasingly drawing upon this power by putting the onus on wellness when it comes to their programming.
We support you in making this happen, and evaluating its impact, in a way that's uniquely tailored to your Museum's collection, ethos and visitors.
WHAT WE DO //
/ Consult, evaluate, program and deliver.
/ Champion the positive impact that museums and the arts have on wellbeing.
/ Draw upon specialist knowledge of both the museum world and the wellness sector to curate and evaluate wellness activities tailored to you and your setting.
/ Aim to bring tranquillity and creativity to you, your visitors and your museum, gallery, event space, or workplace.
MINDFULNESS AND MORE //
Sector best-practice is important, and MINDFULMUSEUM can bring you an up-to-date knowledge of the most relevant examples of wellbeing programming in the sector and the optimum tools to evaluate impact.
As well as mindfulness, this work draws on expertise across a range of other practices that people are increasingly using to support their wellbeing and foster a deeper sense of connection with their spirituality and community. Programmes and events can incorporate anything your visitors desire, from mindfulness, to art-making, meditation, yoga, alternative therapies, or spiritual wellbeing practices where suited.
With a bank of experienced wellness practitioners, and in-depth knowledge of programming for Museums and Galleries, MINDFULMUSEUM can work with you to ensure events and projects are perfectly pitched, relevant to your collection/history, and individually tailored to your audiences. Where relevant, this can include incorporating creative learning into your wellbeing programme or event.
In whichever way you'd like support in developing or evaluating your wellbeing programming, you can rest assured that it will be tailored to your collection, history, site and aims.
Mindfulness practices are increasingly being prescribed by mental health practitioners in order to support good mental health and improve wellbeing. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends practicing mindfulness regularly as a way to prevent depression.
Harvard University studies have shown the benefits of mindfulness against an array of both physical and mental health conditions. What's more, brain scans of their test subjects show that regularly practicing mindfulness meditation has positive and long-lasting effects on the activation of the amygdala (the part of the brain which fires off when we are stressed or emotional.) The NHS website explains that 'mindfulness can help us enjoy life more and understand ourselves better.' And that by 'paying more attention to the present moment' we can 'improve our mental wellbeing'.
Since Museums, Galleries and the collections they showcase so often already inspire a sense of calm and awe in visitors, and, since visitors come to museums during their lesiure time, Museums make the perfect settings for all kinds of wellness activities. In fact, in regards to the impact of museums, the Museums Association mentions health and wellbeing not once, but twice. They explain that museums have the potential to: 'increase our sense of wellbeing, help us feel proud of where we have come from, inspire, challenge and stimulate us, and make us feel healthier.'
If visitors already come to museums to improve their wellbeing then why wouldn't we, as museum professionals program actvites, like mindfulness, that actively support them in doing so?
But, what actually is mindfulness?
WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?
Put most simply, mindfulness is the act of being fully present. It's being aware moment by moment, of where we are and what we're doing.
In modern life we are all too often disengaged from where we are or what we're doing because we're pulled away by thoughts of the past or future. Mindfulness grounds us in the present moment.
Headspace, the UKs most popular meditation app describes mindfulness as; 'the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we're doing at that moment - free from distraction or judgement, and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them.'
Rather than being something we learn, mindfulness is something we do every day, often without even realising it. We can train ourselves to practice mindfulness anywhere, while doing anything. And, cultivating the habit of doing things mindfully means our brain is more likely to fall into mindful-mode more often. The more we practice it the more it becomes a habit!
Here's a taster of previous work, from consulting projects, to programmes, festivals, events, and exhibitions.
CONSULTING & EVALUATION //
WELLBEING CONSULTATION - RIPON MUSEUMS //
Ripon Museums Trust had noticed the positive impact that volunteering had on local people's mental health and wellbeing across it's 3 museum sites. They wanted to evaluate, measure, and expand upon this work, especially in light of the pandemic.
This consultation encompassed interviews with staff, volunteers and trustees, bespoke surveys, in-depth research into best-practice museum volunteering/wellbeing projects and a comparison of current wellbeing measures being used in the sector.
The consultation took place over 6 months, from June - November 2021 and included an 18k word report, action plan and staff training in the use of the identified wellbeing measures. The final report offered a range of future funding and commissioning options, and suggestions for embedding a wellbeing-focus across the organisation.
DIRECTORSHIP & EVALUATION - ART & SOUL //
Art & Soul is a West-London-based visual art and mental health charity with a 20+ year history.
As Director (parental-leave-cover), since September 2021 I fundraise, evaluate, develop and manage the day-to-day running of the charity and it's team. This has included fostering new partnerships, expanding the charity's reach, and sourcing funding for their social prescribing work with adults and young people.
November 2021 saw the launch of Art & Soul's first ever wellbeing festival taking place online and in-person. I programmed and managed the events and the accompanying online exhibition.
Prior to this directorship I project-managed Art & Soul's young people's workshops, including devising a bespoke evaluation system for measuring wellbeing, and reporting on the impact.
BABY MINDFUL //
In response to statistical evidence on the need for more mental health support for new and expectant parents in the borough of Richmond, I developed Baby Mindful specifically with this audience in mind. Pioneering the use of mindfulness in a museum space with this early-years audience the sessions took place weekly, over an 8 week period in the baroque Octagon room at Orleans House Gallery. After commissioning mindfulness teacher Sam Weerasinghe we collaborated to build a site-specific mindfulness course tailored specifically to suit new parents and their babies. The gallery’s architecture, collection, grounds, history, and current exhibitions were incorporated into the practices, and sessions included meditation practices, mindful movement, mandala making, mindful drawing, walking mindfully, and mindful eating.
Baby Mindful has appeared in studies and journals in the UK and internationally. You can read more about Baby Mindful in the following places:
SEE SAW //
Based on the Montessori nursery method, which has mindfulness at it's centre, and taking inspiration from the Tate’s ‘Ways of Looking’ tool for approaching any art work, See Saw was tailor-made to make the changing exhibitions at Orleans House Gallery accessible for early-years audiences. Taking place weekly, in the gallery space, See Saw offered children a range of visual art activities to explore together with their accompanying adults with the aim of facilitating learning through mindful art-making. Having originally been created by artist-educator Bessie Millar, I project managed See Saw at Orleans House Gallery for over seven years, adapting and evaluating it to ensure it remained relevant. During this time I presented the progrmme as a best-practice case-study at numerous conferences and also adapted it to ‘tour’ art centres, children’s centres and community hubs across the borough of Richmond, incorporating drama and storytelling into the activities to interpret the history of each site.
DRAW & EXPLORE //
Taking inspiration from mindfulness and nature, this ongoing 4-week programme facilitated families in appreciating their surroundings in a group walking / foraging activity. This was followed by an opportunity to mindfully create transient art-work using, and inspired by, the natural materials they had collected on their journey.
THE DRAWING LAB //
Taking place at the Barbican Centre this workshop was part of a site-wide family day inspired by the launch of the Barbican's Lee Krasner exhibition 'Living Colour'. Slowing down the drawing process by making it oversized and breaking it into stages we first invited families to build their own giant drawing implements. Then, with jazz music accompanying them families spent sometimes hours mindfully drawing together on an enormous collaborative floor-canvas.
YOGA BABIES //
Run in conjunction with Richmond Literature Festival, this one-off event celebrated the launch of Fearne Cotton's children's book 'Yoga Babies'. With live-drawings from the book's illustrator Sheena Dempsey, the event combined yoga, drawing and a book reading. It was specifically tailored to children between 3 and 4 and their accompanying adults with the onus on creating a relaxed environment for families to enjoy the story while learning simple yoga moves together.
MEMBERSHIP LATE //
In the sanctuary of the British Museum's galleries after hours, this workshop took inspiration from the museum's Eastern Art exhibition. We ran this workshop in collaboration with artist Anna Saunders, inviting members to etch and print their own islamic-inspired tile design using overlapping repetitive shapes evocative of mandalas.
PLAY DAY FESTIVAL //
Taking place yearly, National Play Day is a nationwide family festival inviting all kinds of organisations to host events which celebrate the power of play, and, its importance in supporting the mental health of children and their families. I project-managed the festival at Orleans House Gallery for two consecutive years, fostering a strong partnership with the local Children's Centres and working with them collaboratively to bring over 3,000 visitors to the site for the afternoon festival. This project-management included commissioning artists to run accessible, collaborative workshops to encourage children to lose themselves in the mindful practice of playful art-making.
SPRINGTIME SAFARI //
This yearly weekend festival took place across the galleries and grounds at Orleans House Gallery. Inviting visitors to engage with their environment in a multitude of ways, the festival focussed on appreciating, preserving and protecting the natural environment. I managed the project yearly on behalf of Orleans House, working in partnership with the West London Environment Trust. This also involved producing a family trail each year to guide visitors around the site. As well as engaging families with the natural surroundings using activities such as spotting bird-song and wildflowers, these trails drew upon mindful techniques. These technques focussed upon encouraging visitors to pay close attention to the natural sights, smells and sounds they experienced as they moved around the grounds.
THE OVERVIEW EFFECT //
Drawing upon the theme of sanctuaries, I project managed this innovative and interactive exhibition which transformed the Stables Gallery at Orleans House into an atmospheric astronaut’s lab. The lab was complete with two separate sanctuaries of calm, created to exist in harmony with the ecology of Earth, and imagined ecology of Mars. Over four months the exhibition had an ongoing collaborative element with visitors encouraged to add to it as time went on so that during its summer-long show the exhibition literally ‘grew’. Taking inspiration from ‘The Overview Effect’ - the sense of awe that astronauts experience when viewing the earth from space - commissioned artists Abby&Alice began with a series of ‘Playtests.’ These Playtest workshops invited visitors to journey into the surrounding woodland to collect natural materials and then ‘experiment’ with those materials by building miniature sanctuaries to help inform the exhibition’s final outcome.
TWEET TWEET //
Bringing the peace of the forest into an exhibition space, this summer-long interactive exhibition at Orleans House Gallery was specially tailored for visitors under ten. I created an interactive trail and exhibition guide for this age group to use with their accompanying adults which drew upon the sights, sounds and lives of the animal, bird and insect inhabitants of the imagined forest.
OUR FOUNDER //
MindfulMuseum is founded and run by Heather Whitt.
With over 12 years experience in the museum world, Heather has worked with a range of museums, galleries and creative spaces across the UK.
In addition to her knowledge of programming wellbeing-specific activities Heather has a bank of experience in programming, delivering, and evaluating a wide range of engagement programmes, events, and exhibitions. This experience spans visual arts, heritage, storytelling, drama, music and literature.
Alongside her interest in wellbeing Heather has a specialism in engaging family audiences, especially the Early Years age-group, and a range of experience managing apprenticeships and workforce diversification programmes.
CONTACT US //